Man freed after 27 years for murder that victim’s family says he didn’t commit
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Man freed after 27 years for murder that victim’s family says he didn’t commit

Suleiman Al-Abeid, released at end of sentence, confessed to 1993 rape and murder of teen, but later recanted and insisted on his innocence, with some judges backing him

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Suleiman al-Abeid, who was convicted of murdering and raping Hanit Kikos in 1993, leaves Maasiyahu Prison after serving his sentence on June 17, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Suleiman al-Abeid, who was convicted of murdering and raping Hanit Kikos in 1993, leaves Maasiyahu Prison after serving his sentence on June 17, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A man was released from prison Wednesday at the end of his 27-year sentence for the 1993 murder and rape of a teenager, crimes he was convicted for despite doubts that saw even his victim’s family believing it possible the real culprit had escaped justice.

Suleiman Al-Abeid left Maasiyahu Prison in Ramle, where he completed his sentence for the murder of Hanit Kikos, who was 17 when she vanished in 1993.

“Although it is quite likely that the wrong man sat in prison, the time has come to put the matter aside,” Kikos’s father Rafi told Channel 13 news on Tuesday ahead of Abeid’s release.

“We are left with with our pain and her absence,” Kikos said. “I told police to check other possibilities but nothing came of it. I don’t want to intervene in this anymore, I don’t want to get into it, for the sake of family peace. At a certain point I began to understand that the family is coming apart because of this.”

Abeid, before his imprisonment a resident of the predominantly Bedouin city of Rahat, could have been granted early parole six years ago if he had confessed to the crimes and participated in rehabilitation programs, but he refused to do so.

Hanit Kikos was last seen waiting at a hitchhiking post outside her hometown of Ofakim, in the south of the country, as she tried to thumb a ride to a friend’s birthday party in the city of Beersheba.

Abeid, a backhoe driver at a local landfill site who has been assessed as having intellectual disability, was arrested eight days after her disappearance, based on witness testimony of his being in the area on the same night. He initially denied involvement but later told a police informer placed in his holding cell that he had committed the crimes.

He repeated the confession to police investigators and even pointed out the spot where he said he had dumped Kikos’s body, but her remains were not found.

Later, after meeting with an attorney, he walked back his confessions and since then has always insisted on his innocence.

He was convicted by the Beersheba District court in 1993 with a split decision of judges. Abeid appealed the decision at the Supreme Court in 1995 but before the case could be heard Kikos’s body was found near Beersheba at a different location to the spot he had identified by police.

The Supreme Court ordered the district court to reconsider the conviction, but it arrived at the same split conclusion. A panel of 12 Supreme Court judges later upheld the conviction and sentenced him to life, although two judges were in favor of setting him free.

In 2009, president Shimon Peres reduced his sentence from 33 years to 27.

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